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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia, EU Head for Showdown on Air Strikes

also ruled out retaliatory air strikes by NATO to resolve the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.Kozyrev's statement appeared to place Russia on a collision course with the European Union, which Monday backed the use of air power to end the siege of Sarajevo.NATO representatives are due to meet Tuesday to decide on a request from United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali for permission to call air strikes on the Bosnian Serb artillery and mortar positions.


Kozyrev's deputy in charge of relations with the former Yugoslavia, Vitaly Churkin, said on Russia's NTV television Monday that if NATO carries out raids without Russia's approval, "it will cast a dark shadow on our relations."


The Foreign Ministry had issued a statement over the weekend calling for a swift investigation to find who was responsible for Saturday's attack, which wounded 200-plus people and killed 68.


The statement said that those found guilty of this "evil deed" should face "severe punishment."


But Itar-Tass quoted Kozyrev as saying that it would be impossible to bomb densely populated areas without inflicting heavy casualties. He also warned that air strikes as "punishment" could lead to an escalation of the fighting.


Kozyrev faces pressure to stop any form of Western military intervention in Bosnia from the Russian parliament, where nationalists led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky have been calling for Russia to adopt a close alliance with the Serbs, traditional allies who share Russians' Orthodox Christian religious faith.


The nationalists have been joined by moderates in opposing air strikes.


Vladimir Lukin, the head of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee, said that he was not certain the massacre in Sarajevo on Saturday had been a Serb action and accused the U.N. of harboring "prejudice."


"We can't say that one side is always right and the other is always wrong," said Lukin, who in January authored a Duma resolution protesting plans for air strikes against the Serbs.


Sergei Shakhrai, the minister for nationalities question in Russia and a faction leader in the Duma, warned that any escalation of the fighting in Bosnia "will lead to World War III."


Yegor Gaidar, leader of the reformist Russia's Choice faction, told reporters that Zhirinovsky planned to make a statement about the Bosnian conflict when the State Duma reconvenes Wednesday.


Zhirinovsky told reporters Monday that if the U.N. approved the bombing of Bosnia's Serbs, Russia and "other East European nations" would leave the organization.


"There will be no air bombardment of Serbian positions in Bosnia," Zhirinovsky said.


Speaking at a rally in Moscow's Sokolniky Park on Saturday, Zhirinovsky compared proposals for air strikes against Serbian positions in former Yugoslavia to actions carried out by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, Reuters reported.


"If we allow the enemy into the Balkans, then the next attack will be on Russia," the agency quoted him as telling a crowd of about 500.


Zhirinovsky said that Russia was being ringed with a "green corridor" of Moslems and that the United States, Germany and the Vatican were waging an undercover war against Slavs.